For nearly four decades Donavon Frankenreiter has been travelling the globe, first as a professional surfer and now as a musician. Born in Southern California, Donavon spent most of his youth chasing waves, turning pro at the age of 16.
These days instead of surf competitions, it’s concert halls that brings Frankenreiter to town, where he entertains audiences with his unique blend of laid-back grooves, philosophical lyrics and soulful delivery.
You can find him touring the world with his three-piece band and still catching waves anytime he can.
Art unearths grandeur from hardship.
It documents the typically unseen splendor of struggle and offers the encouragement to forge ahead. Christina Holmes does so on her aptly titled third independent full-length album, The Beautiful Struggle [Cove House Records]. The New Jersey-born and Rhode Island-based singer, songwriter, and Cove House Records founder threads together stories of love and life across eleven alternative folk anthems united by her confessional lyricism and instrumental proficiency on guitar, bass, djembe, and piano.
As a result, she delivers her most personal, passionate, and powerful statement to date informed by true trials, tribulations, and triumphs.
“The album is called The Beautiful Struggle, because I feel as though everybody lives a beautiful struggle,” she states. “There are so many good things in life. There are so many bad things in life. You’re just trying to find a happy balance. You know what you want. However, you might not be able to have it. Maybe it’s just out of reach, so your struggle is reaching for it.”
The music magnifies this universal journey. After keeping a childhood songwriting ambition a secret, she went from braving open mics to brightening the spirits of bedridden hospital patients alongside the charity Musicians On Call. Following a seminal “Amateur Night” gig at the Apollo, she dropped her 2013 debut, Peace, Love, & C. Holmes and canvased the country on a sold-out tour with Trevor Hall. 2017’s Stand Up—produced by Warren Huart [Colbie Caillat, James Blunt]—would be the first official release through Cove House Records.
In the aftermath, she garnered the acclaim of Paste, Relix, and Jam in the Van and toured with everyone from Hall to Xavier Rudd and Nahko of Medicine for the People in addition to booking her own national headline run. As early as 2017, she started compiling ideas for what would become her 2019 offering.
A true experience catalyzed the process as she mustered the courage to tell her then-girlfriend, “I love you.”
“When I met my wife, she had been previously with her husband,” recalls Christina. “I was going through my thing, but I knew I was in love with her the moment I saw her. Since she was married, I didn’t really express my feelings. The struggle was I knew who I wanted to be with, yet I couldn’t. All of these wrenches kept getting thrown into the mix. I admittedly threw some of those in myself. Finally, we got married last year. The album covers the whole period.”
She holed up at Spitfire Studios in Los Angeles in order to put the trip down on tape. For the first time, she expanded her palette like never before. Previously shy about her instrumental diversity, she played everything from guitar to percussion herself, making a decision “to let go of the last part of myself in my teenage bedroom and show who I am as a musician.”
“Everybody Knows” hinted at this impressive musicality, looping vocals on top of djembe. Meanwhile, the single “Rise” pairs a bright guitar lead and organic percussion with her warm delivery. It culminates on the empowering chant, “We will rise up when we are called upon. We will rise up and we will just keep on.”
“It’s a song I felt like I needed to hear—and the world needed to hear,” she elaborates. “At the end of the day, we must find common ground with each other. If we decide we can have a greater purpose of living and moving forward, we can work through the violence in the world together. We’ve got to stop doing what we’re doing, rise above, and create a better world for all of us. The song is meant to make you gravitate towards the rest of the stories in the album and hopefully understand me as an artist.”
These “stories of struggle” comprise the entire body of work. The heartbreakingly potent “Addictions” examines its subject from multiple points-of-view (and -vice versa). The title track builds towards an undeniable chorus over a lively sonic backdrop. Meanwhile, “Try” inspired this unfiltered and unbridled candor at the beginning.
“I speak more clearly through song than when I’m talking,” she confesses. “‘Try’ was one of the first songs I knew would be on the album. It started as me by myself emptying out what I had to. It brought my soul more forward in a way I haven’t. I lost all fear. It made me realize I’m open to try. I don’t ever have to be afraid when it comes to music.”
As the album shows, Christina will be there for you on your struggle in the end.
“I hope people walk away with the strength to know they can keep walking,” she leaves off. “No matter what life throws at you, you’re going to make your way through. I hope you feel good when you hear it.”